Forty-five minutes later, sirens could be heard in the distance, approaching rapidly. Sheriff Rogers motioned for the others and as they walked out of the front of the sheriff's office. Three patrol cars, blue lights flashing, sirens screaming, rounded the corner and came to a screeching halt in front of them. A big man hopped out of one of the cars and as he approached, Sheriff Rogers said, "Dang, Sheriff, I just asked for you to come over in a hurry. You didn't need to bring the whole department. And how did you make the trip in forty-five minutes?"
"Darn it, Neil, I didn't. Just brought the ones hanging around the office doing nothing. You didn't expect me to risk my life by being the only car screaming down the highway did you? I put one in front and one in the back to protect the sheriff in the middle. You know those new cars we have will do way over a hundred fifty?"
Neil was shaking his head. "Actually I didn't, but come on in, we have some unpleasant business to attend to. Send your men somewhere to cool their heels. I don't want them in on this." Once we were inside, Neil introduced us. When he introduced Bull, Pete said, "Hot darn, man I have heard tales about you since I was a kid. You're like a legend. You sure you're real?"
Bull laughed and said, "Yeah, and what you have heard is only half of it."
"So what's up, Neil? Drugs, illegal liquor, what?"
"How about you sit down and I'll explain. First off, what do you know about New Beginnings over in the corner of your county?"
"Not as much as I'd like to know. When they first started up, their kids were in public schools and teachers reported possible child abuse, but when I investigated, no one knew the kid I was talking about. Since then they pulled their kids out of public school and I haven't seen or heard anything. A dozen or so men from there work around the county and give no one trouble. I assumed it was just one of those groups that felt they practiced a purer version of the faith. Some of the decisions made by the Apostles in recent years have been rejected as borderline heresy. Why?"
"June and Josh hired Bull to locate a friend of Josh's that disappeared seven, eight years ago, the year before they were supposed to graduate high school. The fellow, Alexander Bledsoe, was kidnapped by his mother or at least hidden from his father. His father had hired skip tracers but had no luck. June told Josh if he could be found, Bull could find him. Bull turned up some evidence that he was being held at New Beginnings. They approached the compound from the back—which is in my jurisdiction—and went back the next day with cameras with long telephotos and made some pictures. They have three sequences you need to see, but I want you to promise you'll not go off half-cocked, but will work with me to come up with a plan. Promise?"
"Dang it, Pete, I want a blood brother promise before we go further."
The two clasped hands and Pete said, "Blood brother promise."
"Josh, ready?" Josh nodded. "Pete, June and Bull took the pictures you are about to see. For the first sequence, they had only one camera and it was not ready, so the pictures are not as sharp as you wish they were. For all of them, the cameras were set to take three shots each time the release was pressed. From each sequence of three, they selected the best and arranged them in a sequence. Since they did sequences, it's almost like stop-action. Before we start, Deputy," he called out. When a young man came to the door, he said, "Bring Sheriff Newcome a wastebasket."
"Why the heck do I need a wastebasket?"
"You may not 'cause you're tougher and rougher than I am, but it's just in case. Josh, start the slides. As I said, these are not as sharp as the later ones since these are from a hand-held camera."
When the man struck the boys the first time, Pete said, "That bastard. I'll horsewhip him myself!" Neil made no response.
When the sequence in the field was over and the rape sequence started, Pete sat up straight, looking ready to leap when the woman slapped the girl. By the time the girl had climbed into the loft, he was livid. When the man ripped the her dress off, he stood, walked over to the wall and slugged it. Fortunately, it was plasterboard and he did not hit a stud. He did leave a hole all the way through the wall and into the hall. When the man started raping the girl, he grabbed the wastebasket. When the sequence was over, he had collapsed in tears. Josh was surprised when Neil walked over to him, put his arm around his shoulders and hugged him. Pete put his head on Neil's shoulder and bawled. He was thinking of his own beautiful babies, his daughters.
Josh wasn't very comfortable thinking about Pete seeing the third sequence until that moment. Until then he was afraid he'd be of the 'they get what they deserve school.' Instead Josh saw a compassionate man and expected that and his devotion to the law to override any prejudice he had. Pete watched the last sequence with a stoney face. When it finished, he said, "I have some questions. This last sequence, do you know what that's all about?"
Josh thought this was his question to answer, so he said, "Yes, I do. I know the teachings of your church on homosexuality and that it believes it's a choice. There are those who believe they can cause a man to change that choice. Most use some form of what is called aversion therapy. In some cases, that can be extreme—sleep deprivation, starving, isolation, electric shock, and other methods. The sign on the front gate says New Beginnings has a clinic and from what June and Bull observed, the clinic is an aversion treatment setup."
"Josh, I don't disagree with my church's teaching. Well, I do have a real struggle with the whole question since my baby brother, who I practically raised, is gay. He tells me he has no choice, but I am not convinced. He lives in Atlanta with a man he has lived with for ten years now. He says they are happy and I see no evidence otherwise. He was excommunicated when he was eighteen and my parents haven't spoken to or of him since. I can't do that but, all that aside, the question here is one of the law. I have witnessed photos of extreme child abuse, rape and holding people against their will. I suspect it means nothing to you, but it is being done in the name of a purer LDS faith and that blackens my church and reflects on every decent Mormon but, again, we are dealing with the law here. June, Dick, I understand you are lawyers." Both nodded. "How well do you know Utah law?"
"Not well enough to be a very good lawyer here. That's why we have hired Dick. He's at your disposal."
Neil was looking at Pete strangely. "I don't know how to say this, Pete, but I thought you would have called out the troops and opened fire on New Beginnings with everything you had."
"Don't think I wouldn't like to, Neil, but I can't let myself run rough-shod over this situation and muck it up. We need these two lawyers to come up with everything they can in way of charges. We need search warrants which will allow us to look under the rocks if we want to. You have a judge you can trust? I'm afraid most of mine would see too little wrong or too little proof."
"Our two counties share the same judges," Neil said.
Dick said, "There's a retired judge up in the hills near you, Pete. When he retired, the governor appointed him to a special position to deal with situations where the local judges or law enforcement have a hot potato they don't want to have their name attached to. I'm positive he'd give you a blanket warrant to search under anything you want to."
"Phone him, explain the situation and see if he'll issue a warrant. If not, Neil or I will run the photos to him."
"Why not print them, fax copies and send the prints up with a deputy to pick up the warrant?" Josh asked. "He'll need to cover his ass in any event."
"Sounds like a plan." Pete said. "Dick, call him if you would."
The sheriffs put their heads together and began working on a plan for raiding the compound. When Dick came back from talking with the judge, he said, "You've got your search warrant as well as John Doe warrants for the arrest of four men—the one abusing the boys, the one who raped the girl, the one who tasered the young man and the head of the clinic for holding people against their will. There is a Jane Doe warrant for the woman who slapped the girl for child abuse and for aiding and abetting unlawful sexual activity. There is also a warrant for Maria Crimshaw for kidnapping and holding someone against his will. If we come up with other evidence, he'll issue other warrants. He was livid when he saw the faxed photos. Don't know what he might do when he sees the prints. I don't think it would do to show him the entire sequences in living color. Afraid he'd burst a blood vessel."
"From what you two observed, everyone, including the men in the clinic, is in church at sunrise and is there for two hours, right?" Pete asked.
"Right," June responded.
"That would certainly be the best time to hit the clinic. I'm still afraid by the time we get in and get to the clinic, records and all will be destroyed."
"I'm not sure there is anyone left at the clinic during that time," Bull said. "You could go in from the back and even if there were a couple people there, you'd have no trouble securing it."
"But we have an electric fence that kills," Neil said.
"Ever seen a jumper cable?" Bull grinned.
"Of course," Neil laughed. "We wouldn't have to bother with the razor wire as it is above head height. How far apart are the posts?"
"Nine, no more than ten feet," Bull said. "You have to get cables made because they have to be long enough to hang down from the cut fence to the ground so your men can just step over them. And be damn sure they are attached and resting on the ground before you cut anything otherwise I bet you'd set off an alarm. By the way, I want to go in with you. Neil, you can swear me in."
"Deputy," he yelled. When the young deputy appeared, he said, "I need a Bible." Five minutes later he had one and Bull was sworn in. That done, he said, "Deputy, run over to Jones Electric and ask Barney Jones to come over. Bull, how many men will need to hit the clinic?"
"Four should be enough to secure it," he answered, "but a bigger task will be searching it. Frankly, I wouldn't know what I was looking for."
"Maybe we could declare it a crime scene and seal it off."
"Maybe, but I'd want us to walk out with any really good stuff."
When Barney Jones came, Neil told him he needed twelve cables made from heavy gauge, but flexible wire, forty feet long with good, insulated clamps on the ends.
"Like jumper cables? Barney asked and Neil nodded.
"And Barney, men's lives will depend on those cables, so do your best. Also, can you round up two pair of electrical gloves that can withstand twenty thousand volts?"
"I don't have anything like that. Only place around here you'll find such would be the power company. What's going on?"
"It's top secret stuff, but listen to the news in three or four days. Meanwhile, my advice is keep all of this under your hat." Barney nodded. "How soon can you have the cables done?"
"Hour, hour and a half."
"Fine, I'll pick them up at two.
Neil called the power company and had a deputy near their maintenance building pick up two pair of high-voltage gloves.
The rest of the morning was spent in planning. By combining the men from the two departments, they figured they could handle the operation until Josh asked, "What if there is gunfire?"
"This will not be Waco," Neil said, emphatically. "How many will they exempt from sunrise church? Very few I suspect. I expect the gate will be guarded as it was when you asked about Ms. Crimshaw. How many guards were there?"
"Only one," June answered.
"Why would it be different during sunrise church? With all the inmates—and I think of them as inmates—from the clinic at that service, no guards would seem necessary."
"Why are we assuming all the inmates are in the church?" Josh asked.
"Good question, Josh. If isolation is a part of the so-called treatment, some may be in isolation so complete they aren't allowed outside their cell but, even at that, do you think they would leave more than two? Look, if they taser someone, they will lock cells. Truly I think the guys in that place are prisoners. As they conform, they get more 'privileges,' such as windows and a march to church."
"Makes sense. The major concern, then, is to prevent alarms and communication. We do not want to be announced," Neil said.
"I'd suggest we plan to make the raid in a couple days…"
"Why the delay?" Josh asked, agony in his voice.
"I think we need to get some skilled observers in place and keep the place under tight surveillance until we are sure what their routine is. If they are like most such groups, everything moves on a very rigid schedule."
"That seemed to be true when we were observing," June said.
"We'll keep in contact with the observers and gradually build an attack plan based on their observations. We'll brief our troops at one or two, get them in place and be ready to move as soon as the men from the clinic enter the church. You did say they were the last in, right?" Neil was looking at Bull and June. Both nodded.
"What if they have police scanners?" Bull asked. "They could hear the whole plan."
"Another reason to wait. We need radios with scramblers. You have any, Pete?"
"Same here. Think we can get any from the state?"
"We'll need a good reason and the fewer who know what we are up to the better," Pete replied.
"I think I can handle that for you," Dick said. "How many do you need."
"We have four. Half a dozen would do, ten would be better."
Dick went into the corner of the room, dialed a number and spoke for some time. He took the phone from his ear, placed it against his chest and asked, "How soon do you need them?"
"The sooner the better. We'll need to make sure the observers know how to use them. Oh, check on night vision devices—binoculars and cameras as well as regular cameras with long telephotos. I have two night vision binoculars," Neil said.
"I have two," Pete added.
"We have two," Bull added.
"See if you can get a dozen of each, but we'll take what we can get."
Dick got back on the phone.
"How many of your men have served in Iraq? As boots on the ground, I mean?" Pete asked.
"They likely have experience at observation."
"Well, one of them is a borderline survivalist. I'd trust him with most anything, but not this."
"I have six, but now that you bring up the trust thing, I have only three I'd want to know what was going on. How many serious hunters do you have?"
"I think all of them."
"I mean serious, the kind of hunter who comes back to his buddy and says, 'Old Jim had a heart attack and fell out of his deer stand dead three hours ago.' His buddy asked, 'Where have you been?' He replied, 'Thank God,when he fell, he didn't frighten off a seven-point buck, so I had to wait until I got a good shot at him, then it was carry the buck and go back and drag old Jim, carry the buck and go back and drag old Jim. Take a look at this buck I got.' His buddy is astonished. 'And where's Jim?' he asks 'He's back there a bit. I got real tired and figured nothing would drag him off, but some animal might drag off this buck.' That kind of serious hunter."
An old story, but the men were grinning. They got Pete's point. They needed men with patience, who knew how to stay hidden and were good observers. There were plenty to fill out a roster of observers.
"Got a deputy free to head toward Salt Lake?" Dick asked from his corner.
"Sure, but that's an eight-hour round trip," Neil said.
"The equipment will be on its way in less an hour, blue lights and siren all the way. Same with your deputy. Less than four hours at the most."
"Deputy," Neil yelled.
"Sheriff," the deputy said running through the door.
"Find out who is closest to Salt Lake and get them on the radio."
In three minutes he yelled, "I have Deputy Andrews on the radio, Sheriff."
Neil went out of the room to give the deputy his instructions and when he did, Pete took Josh aside and said, "Josh, I hope you trust me on my seeing this as a question of law. As I said, I don't approve of my brother's lifestyle and wish he'd change it but, that being said, I still love him very much and hope he is as happy as he says he is and I believe he is. Now I have a question, but feel free not to answer. It seems that this started because of a friend of yours, but I suspect he is more than a friend." Josh nodded. "Do you have reason to believe he is in that compound? Josh nodded again. "Against his will? Josh nodded a third time. "What evidence do you have?"
"Remember when the guy was tasered? Alex was one of the two who helped carry him back into that place."
"Think you can stay out of the way and keep your mind on what we want to do out there?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then I'll see if you can go in with the team which is to secure the clinic."
"I can be a help in sorting out what we need to grab as evidence," Josh said. "I run a pretty good sized company and, unfortunately, deal with a hell of a lot of paperwork. I know a lot about records and would have a good idea of what to look for."
"Good, that's why I'll tell Neil you need to be sworn and go in. Neil's a grand guy, but he has a boy, Nelson, who is not as rough and tumble as Neil thinks he should be and Neil worries about him. Nelson knows his dad thinks he might be gay, but they have never talked about it. He just turned eighteen a few months ago and probably has had more pussy than Neil did the first year of his marriage, but I'd never tell Neil that. I just have Nelson come over and we spend time together. He's a grand kid and Neil is proud of him and loves him to death, but he has that one worry."
They finally went out for lunch since there was little else they could do before the equipment from Salt Lake arrived. When they walked into the small cafe down the street, Pete's deputies were all sitting around a table, drinking coffee. Pete went over and spoke to them. Neil motioned for a waitress and when she arrived, said, "All this goes on my tab as well as what Sheriff Newcome's boys want to eat."
They sat down and Neil said, "Order what you like, but I can highly recommend the steak sandwich and the country style steak. Avoid the chicken. It will be overcooked and tough. Baked potatoes are done in an oven, not nuked. Save room for the carrot cake or cobbler."
They were all ordering when Pete returned. "Your department paying for this?" he grinned.
"Sure," Neil replied.
"Then I guess I'll have a sixteen-ounce filet."
"It comes raw or very, very well-done and you'll know which when it gets here."
"I seem to recall that from the first time you treated me here." Pete laughed. When his time came, he ordered a salad and steak sandwich. When it arrived, he removed the top slice of bread and said, "Doc's got me on a diet and exercise program. I was getting fat and flabby. Agnes, my wife, complained, but it did no good, then the doc didn't like the fact that my BP had gone way up. Well, where are we doing this training session? I'd say here since I have that lazy bunch over there with me, but one of them doesn't need to know about this. I think we need to find a place where we can get together without attracting too much attention. Half a dozen or so patrol cars will attract too much attention just about any place."
"There's that state trooper station down I-15. Maybe they have a briefing room we can use," Neil said. He pulled out his cell phone, hit a speed dial number and said, "I need to speak to the captain if he's around. I agree he's very round, but I wouldn't let him hear you say that." Neil laughed and said, "And you're still able to speak?" He covered the phone and said, "The trooper said the captain was standing in front of him when he said, 'Yeah, he's around, 'round about four hundred.'" He put the phone to his ear and a few seconds later said, "Yeah, Captain Willis, wondering if you could help me and Sheriff Newcome out. We need a briefing room for something we have going over the next couple days and thought about yours since it's between the two of us… No problem, we can definitely work around that… Yeah, that really would be great. Thanks… Yeah, we'll start showing up in a couple hours.
"We have the room except for twenty-five or thirty minutes before shift change at eight am and four pm. Figured we'd not be needing it at midnight. He says budget cuts have reduced his troop by half, so we can use the barracks if we have no more than fifteen men. I'm thinking there will be more and the men need their rest because we may be pulling some long hours and there's bound to be stress. I'm not used to sleeping in a room full of snoring men and don't think our deputies are. I want them wide awake and bushy tailed, not half asleep. There's an economy motel across the highway. I'll call about rooms there.
Something was nibbling at the back of Josh's mind, but he couldn't get a hold on it. Maybe it wasn't important.
After they had eaten, the two men made up a list of deputies they wanted on the raid. Neil had eleven, Pete nine. Back at the office, Neil gave the deputy the list and told him to call the men and tell them to report to the state trooper station by two thirty and to tell them they were to speak to no one about it beyond telling their wife, if they had one, they would be on assignment for the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours. "Tell them to bring a fresh uniform, any personal items they need and a couple suits of camouflage like they were going deer hunting. Mouth shut applies to you too, Deputy. Anyone leaking anything about this will be looking for a job."
Pete sent one of the men who came with him back with instructions to make sure a dispatcher was on duty at all times, "and I mean awake and alert. You're in charge of the office for the next seventy-two hours or until I relieve you. You can go home, but be ready to move on a moment's notice." After he left, Pete said, "He's a good man, but a bit self-important. He'll be so busy impressing everyone that he won't give a thought to what we are up to and I sure don't want him knowing anything about it."
The equipment from Salt Lake arrived while they were at lunch, the patrol car racing into the town and past the sheriff's department to the parking lot around back because the front parking was occupied by the two sheriffs' cars and Sheriff Newcome's entourage. "I got what you asked for," the deputy reported, "and some Mace in case you need it."
"Fine. Thanks, Deputy. I think you've done your work for the day. Keep your mouth shut about this. Go home and take the wife and kids to the park."
"Thanks, Sheriff." When he left, Neil said, "I guess we need to be getting down the road." He checked with the deputy at the desk and found he had contacted everyone except for one who was at the far end of the county, but the end where the troopers' station was. "I'll contact him myself," Neil said as he put his hat on.
When they arrived at the trooper's station, Neil and Pete got the equipment inside and made reservations at the motel for two nights. Since six of the men would be observing, they needed only space for sixteen deputies, the two lawyers and Bull and Josh. The motel had eleven rooms available and since six men would be on post, the eleven would handle them. Once they were inside, it was clear why the rooms were available The place was clean, but definitely in need of major renovations. When the men started arriving, they were told they would be assigned rooms later. At four, all the men were assembled in the state troopers' briefing room.
When Josh and the others went to join them, he noticed the patrol cars beside the troopers' station. Nothing unusual about that, he supposed, since law enforcement often get together for training, raids, etc., but he got that nagging in his head again. Then it struck him. The patrol cars at the troopers' station wouldn't attract too much attention, but anywhere around New Beginnings, they would. The two sheriffs were standing to one side in front of the room as Josh made his way to them. "Sheriffs…"
Pete burst out laughing. "One, seraph, two seraphim; one cherub, two cherubim; why not one sheriff, two sheriffim?" Bull and June also started laughing. "Dick, Neil, Josh, long before your time, but it was an old Shelly Berman joke on a record my dad loved. I could do the whole monolog when I was in high school and fool my buddies about how clever I was. Anyway, Josh."
"The Sheriffim picked this place because the patrol cars wouldn't attract attention. They will be like attention magnets anywhere near New Beginnings."
All four of the fellows standing with Josh look chagrined. "Kinda stupid of us not to think of that, Neil," Pete said. Neil nodded.
Five minutes later, Sheriff Rogers and Sheriff Newcome stood in the front of the room. "I suspect we all know or know of each other, but I am Sheriff Rogers of Copper County and this is Sheriff Newcome of Jefferson County. You have been selected as members of a task force made up of deputies from two counties. Any non-Mormons among you? Two men raised their hands. I'd like to speak to the Mormons for a minute. I hope you are disgusted with those splinter groups which cast a dreadful light on us and our church. For you non-Mormons, I know some of you think mainline LDS members are pretty weird, but take the attitude that so long as we don't try to force you into our mold, we can get along. I want to be very upfront, we are here to deal with a Mormon splinter sect which claims to be the only true LDS church. They are neither the first nor, I suspect, the last. In any event, if you have problems with going up against such a group, you are free to leave. The only stipulation is that you keep your mouth shut for the next seven-two hours."
"Sheriff does this have anything to do with New Beginnings," a deputy in the back asked.
"If it does, is that a problem for you, Joseph?" Sheriff Newcome asked.
"Not unless you want to drop me from the team. My sister went off with that bunch last year and none of the family has seen her or, more importantly, her son since. He's eleven now and his grandparents on both sides have really been hurt by that."
"Regardless of whether the operation involves New Beginnings or not, you are on the team. Second question," he continued, "I am in full agreement with my church's stand on homosexuality…"
"I'm not," another voice from the back said. "May get me excommunicated—I've been reprimanded by my stake president—but I think the stand is wrong."
A hubbub broke out. Sheriff Newcome's voice cut through it like a knife, "Deputies, that is a debate you might want to engage in at some church meeting, not here! Again, I agree with the LDS stand and support it, but when it comes to the law, everyone has the right to be protected and that includes homosexuals. If you disagree with that, you are free to leave, again with the same stipulation." A couple of guys left. While they were leaving, Pete leaned over to Josh and asked, "Think Bull and June would like jobs as deputies? I think I may have two openings soon."
When the two were out of the room, Sheriff Newcome asked, "Any questions so far?" When there were none, he continued, "What you are about to see is sickening. I mean that literally. I'll be honest with you, Sheriff Rogers lasted longer than I did, but we both had to use a puke bucket before it was finished. If you feel you are going to do that, don't wait around, hit the john. I'm serious as death about that. We don't want to have to clean up the briefing room. I managed to get a bunch of buckets from the chicken place, but not enough to go around."
"This is a joke, right?" a young man asked with a smile on his face. Neither sheriff answered and Josh started the video projector and showed the first picture of the two boys working and talking.
Joseph shouted, "The kid on the right is my nephew." Bull quietly took one of the buckets and slid it close to the deputy.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
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